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Jonestown: The Socialist Utopia

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Dániel Boros

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What in the world...

I didn't know about the housing comitee apointment or the weird fight-club punishment thing they were doing.

I had seen a documentary on this subject before, but it only covered the later parts leading up to the suicide. This documentary is much better than the one I saw though. A lot more signifigant details.

Edited by Hairnet
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  • 5 weeks later...

I don't think this is worth watching. The ending in particular is quite gruesome. I suggest that there are other ways to learn about Jonestown, and the methods of Jim Jones (how he was effective with rhetoric and brainwashing), that don't end up with having to hear about the particulars of the physiological process of death by cyanide.

Also, the message isn't that good - all the people that live don't somehow realize why it was bad. They have the emotional response of anyone who has lost someone close to them, but still think it was a paradise on earth up until that point.

My 2 cents: don't watch.

Edited by Focused
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Excerpt from "Thirty Years Later" by Tim Carter, a survivor of Jonestown:

At the root of much of what I tolerated – the bizarre, forced “suicide” rituals, the beyond-the-pale discipline, the manipulations and machinations – was the belief that “The ends justify the means.” This was a fundamental principle in Peoples Temple.

Our end was a society free from elitism. I didn’t expect to create an utopian “heaven on earth” in the jungle of Guyana. I did expect to build a community that allowed my children – and my children’s children – to grow up in a more peaceful, humane, and caring society that eventually might become an “Utopia.” If I didn’t agree with some of what I saw, heard, and felt, so what? Didn’t the ends justify the means?

Of course, the belief that “the ends justify means” is both fallacious and dangerous: fallacious, because if the means aren’t consistent with the principles of the end, then what is achieved in the end is a lie; and dangerous, because the tenet itself offers built-in justification for any outrageous or amoral behavior. Rationalizations and justifications allowed me to accept behaviors that should have rightfully been viewed as blatant and conspicuous red flags for re-examination of the process in which I was immersed.

But members of Peoples Temple are not the only people who turned a blind eye to manifest inconsistency and incongruousness. How many millions have been tortured and slaughtered in the name of “God”? History, both ancient and contemporary, is rife with examples of the basic tenets of belief being selectively ignored in pursuit of some “greater good.”

Too, the dynamic of a “group mind” is also found in contemporary American society. When the U.S. PATRIOT Act was first passed, any dissent was quickly labeled as treasonous and – by definition – unpatriotic. This bullying exactly mirrored the Temple’s techniques for keeping people “in line.”

People wonder how those in the Temple could have been so blind, so ignorant, so brainwashed as to surrender their freedom in the face of such contradiction and incongruity. They correctly point out that it is impossible to preach freedom yet live in a closed society. They admonish that Temple members should have known they were being duped, and should have been more aware as their liberty was being taken away. Yet many are blind to the striking and disturbing contemporary political correlation to this exact phenomenon by many Americans.

In 2007 habeas corpus act was suspended by the American government. It was eliminated in the name of freedom, democracy, and national security. Barely was there a murmur from American society. This acquiescence to what is patently hypocritical is no different than the acquiescence to “group think” that existed in Peoples Temple.

Too, Peoples Temple was filled with contradictions, ironies, and paradoxes. For example, despite the reality that Peoples Temple was a highly egalitarian society, that conscious aspiration included all but one person, Jim Jones himself. Whereas all Temple members were “accountable” to the collective, including Marceline Jones and the sons and daughters of Jim Jones, Jim Jones was not. His actions and instruction were minded almost without question, and when inconsistency of purpose was evident, I turned a blind eye because he was the leader.

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